This is a sweeter, chewier, lighter and richer version of Traditional Irish Soda Bread. And, in my opinion and experience, seems to be more in harmony with the American taste. The conventional Irish Soda bread simply combines flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk; it’s not sweet and has a very dense, somewhat doughy crumb. Most of this version’s sweetness comes from the currants and the crackly-crunchy sugar crust. Of all of the soda breads I have made and tried this, by far, is one of my very favorites.
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (King Arthur is preferred)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated or organic cane sugar
1 cup currants or raisins, or a combination of dried cranberries and raisins; dried blueberries also work well in the combo
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, optional, but recommended
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk*
4 tablespoons butter, melted
*No buttermilk? Substitute 1 cup milk + 3/4 cup (one 6-ounce container) plain or vanilla yogurt or simply add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to 1 ¾ cups of milk.
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon coarse white sparkling sugar
· Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
· In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants (or combination of berries and raisins), and caraway seeds.
· In a separate bowl, or in a measuring cup, whisk together the egg and buttermilk (or milk and yogurt).
· Quickly and gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
· Stir in the melted butter.
· Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Draw your finger around the edge of the pan to create a “moat.” Drizzle the bread with the 1 tablespoon of milk; the moat will help prevent the milk from running down the sides of the loaf. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar. The milk helps the sugar adhere to the top and provides a slightly shiny top
· Bake the bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour
· Remove the bread from the oven, loosen its edges, and after 5 minutes turn it out onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature.
· Yield: 1 loaf.